What is the purpose of life? Before I get to the purpose of life, I quickly want you to realize that this question presupposes a purpose giver, namely God. Think about it, if God doesn’t exist and this is just a purely random, materialistic universe, then life has no ultimate meaning and we really have no more intrinsic value than a rock or a monkey. Thankfully this is not the case. God exists and his Word teaches us that he has created all things for his own good purposes.
I have asked many college students what they thought the purpose of life is and I usually come away disappointed in their answers. Their responses usually focus on enjoying life to the max, making good money, or having a family. While these things can be good additions to life, they can also destroy your life. If you dedicate your life to fulfill God’s purposes for your life God guarantees that you will never regret it in eternity. So what is the purpose of life?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes biblical teaching on the issue by stating:
Question: What is the chief end (purpose) of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
The great biblical answer is that we have been created to glorify and enjoy our creator? After reading this statement I can think of four immediate questions I would want to be answered:
1. What does it mean to Glorify God?
2. Why should we glorify God?
3. How do we glorify God?
4. What does enjoying him forever have to do with anything?
1. What does it mean to Glorify God? Let’s first of all note that glorifying God does not mean that you are adding to his glory. He is independently glorious whether or not we ever realize it. We give glory to God when we recognize his supreme importance or weightiness which results in worship, honor and praise to Him with our thoughts, words and deeds. I like to think of giving glory to God in part like reflecting his glory and attributes back at Him and at others by living, acting and thinking the way His word commands.
In a limited way, an everyday example can be the relationship between parents and a child. When a child goes rogue and begins to disrespect all law and authority in the land, that child’s parents feel a sense of disgrace. On the other hand when your child is playing by the rules and living life to the best of their ability parents often feel “glorified”. Parallel that with our lives. God created us to live holy, God honoring, thank filled lives that will reflect His goodness and attract others to him, but all too often human’s sin and live their lives as if God does not exist and as if He is not the greatest treasure in the universe. This does not honor and glorify the Great God who made us.
We need to realize what an honor it is that God would want to use us to make his name greatly known among the nations and people groups of the world. God could appear to his people in visions or dreams but for some reason in his sovereignty he has he has chosen to use sin stained humans to deliver his message and magnify his glory.
2. Why should we glorify God?
Objectors often ridicule by calling the God of the Bible egotistical. Does God really need us to massage his ego? The answer is obviously no. So why should we glorify God with our lives?
Reason #1 is because he is worthy of ultimate glory. There is nothing that compares to His power and Majesty. God is the self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, infinite, unchanging, all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, just, loving, merciful, gracious creator of the universe. This is something that no mere little man or woman can claim. Even if God never saved one human from their sins He is still worthy to be worshiped and glorified because he is glorious in his essence and being!
• Revelation 4:11 – “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Reason #2 is that God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, thus he obviously gets to dictate the purpose of his creation. He holds every molecule in the universe together by his magnificent power.
• Isaiah 43:7; 21 “…Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made….21 the people whom I formed from myself that they might declare my praise.”
• Colossians 1:16-20 – “For by him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
• Romans 11:36 – “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Reason #3 is that putting God first in our lives by glorifying Him above all else is what is best for us. God loves humanity and he wants what is best for us, and He is what is best for us. God has commanded us to love and glorify Him above all else and he has instructed us how to do this by giving us laws or rules to live by. Please remember that God has given us a set of rules to live by not because he is a kill joy, but because he wants us to experience the ultimate joy. When we sin and refuse to glorify Him, we never have God’s best for our lives because we are not fulfilling the purpose for which we were ultimately created, namely God Glorification. The Creator of the universe knows that knowing him and living in his will brings ultimate joy and satisfaction, and this brings God great glory. I love how Dr. John Piper puts it when he says, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.”
• John 15:8 – “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples….If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
• Psalm 16:11 – “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
• Ephesians 3:19 – “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
• John 10:10 – “…I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Reason #3 pertains to the people who call themselves Christians. Have you repented from sins and turned to Jesus in faith for the cleansing of sin which was accomplished by His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead? If so, you have been ransomed back from your old slave master, namely sin. You have promised you life to your new master, namely God. He has paid the ultimate price for you and your glorifying obedience. He has shown great sacrificial love for us, how then can we not show great appreciation for Him in return by obeying his commands, thereby glorifying him?
• 1 Corinthians 6:20 – “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
• 1 Peter 2:9 – “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
• Romans 12:1 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
3. How do we glorify God?
This question could potentially consume a full book, but for our purposes I will try to be brief. I know I will fail to cover some ways to bring God glory, but I hope the following will be helpful.
• 1 Corinthians 10:31 “ So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
a. Trust in God – Hebrews 11:4 states “and without faith it is impossible to please Him (God), for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” It is glorifying to God when we trust his promises of salvation and provision in our lives. (also see Romans 4:20)
b. Know who God is –You cannot intentionally glorify God if you do not know who the true God of the bible is. It is imperative that you have a basic understanding of the nature of God and who he has claimed to be, namely one God revealed in three distinct persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit (A.K.A. the Trinity). But don’t stop there; you need to study His attributes! The more you know about God the more there is to love, honor and adore. The difference between worshiping a false god and the real God starts with knowing who he has claimed to be. (Recommended reading: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, or Knowing God by J.I. Packer)
c. Faith in Jesus – Philippians 2:10-11 states, “…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Repenting of your sins and receiving Christ as Lord, God and Savior is essential if you want to god now and for eternity. The bible explicitly teaches that apart from being “born again” by the Spirit of God and drawn into a saving relationship with Jesus that we are spiritually dead and not capable of doing anything good in the eyes of God (see Romans 3 and Ephesians 2). After being filled with the Spirit of God and having our sins washed away by the blood of Jesus through faith, we are seen as righteous in the eyes of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), and only then are we capable to do the good deeds that will bring God glory. In fact Ephesians 2:10 states that, “We are His is workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (also see Matthew 5:16, Hebrews 13:21, and Isaiah 64:6)
d. Worship Him – Psalm 29:2 states, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.”
e. Know His Word – God has revealed himself to us primarily through the Bible. When we the Christian puts great value what God has desired to teach us it brings him Glory
f. Obey the commands in his Word – Jesus said in John 14:15, “”If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” If you want to glorify the Father you must have love for the son, and if you have love for the son the fruit of your life will be obedience to the commands of Jesus and the rest of the bible. If you do not read and know your bible then how will you obey its commands?
g. Confess your sins often – When we confess we are agreeing that God was right and we were wrong thus glorifying Him. We can see an example in Joshua 7:19 where Achan is told by Joshua, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” We should also realize that inherent in the Christians confession should be the plea for forgiveness based on the substitutionary work of Christ on the Cross. This showcases God’s glorious sacrificial love for guilty sinners.
h. Telling others about Him – God has chosen to save sinners by using sinners to spread his gospel around the whole earth. It should be obvious that as more and more sinners repent God will receive more and more worship, praise and Glory. Christians are also commanded to share the good news of God and his Christ. As we noted above, when we obey his commands we express our love for Him and bring God glory. What an honor it is to be commissioned to do God’s work on his behalf. I know evangelism is scary, but for me, telling others about God and his redemptive story is a great joy!
i. Pray – When we pray we are acknowledging God’s sovereignty over us and our dependence on him.
j. Bearing fruit / Good works – Matthew 5:16 – “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
k. Worship and Thanksgiving – Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I have a firm belief that a central part of worshiping God is done by giving thanks to Him. In fact Hebrews 12:28 tells us, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God” acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”” (also see Luke 17:15-17)